Commissioner Diana Broomell has now explained her vote opposing a six month delay in requiring sprinklers in new residential structures, in a letter to the Cecil Whig. Enforcement of the ordinance mandating the life safety systems in all new single family dwellings beginning January 1, 2011, was called into question at the first meeting of the new Republican board in December. The previous body adopted the regulation last June, but moments into a new term officials voted 3 to 2 to consider postponing the ordinance for six months, as they need time to consider whether to keep the requirement.
The request, brought up by Commissioner Robert Hodge, resulted in an extended exchange with the professional staff and elected officials about technicalities involved with changing a law already on the books. As the discussion evolved, Commissioner Hodge modified his original motion since a public hearing is required to change the law, which the Licensing and Inspection Department is required to enforce starting New Year’s Day. It took time to sort it all out as they figured out how to go about this and most of the board shared their positions on the question.
When the vote was called Commissioners Dunn, Hodge, and More favored considering the delay. President Mullin and Commissioner Broomell opposed putting a hold on enforcement. Commissioner Hodge explained his reasons. As the discussion continued President Mullin made his position clear. “I voted for the ordinance in June and there was a fatal fire in my district over the weekend, so I haven’t changed my mind.” Commissioners Moore and Dunn both said they need to learn lots more about the matter so it is “worthy of a lot more discussion.”
Following a three hour public hearing on Jan 4th where over 60 people testified and some addressed the Tea Party credentials of Commissioner Broomell she has now explained her vote against considering a six month delay in a letter to the editor. “I felt we could resolve this issue within one or two months by voting to repeal outright without putting in a place a moratorium first,” she wrote. Justifying her assessment that the ordinance should be repealed quickly, she added that the cost far outweighs the benefit, property damage can result when sprinkler accidentally activate, and “sprinklers are not effective in preventing . . . deaths” as smoke is the most “common cause of fire deaths.” The official, representing the Susquehanna Region of the county, added that hardwired smoke alarms, which are already required for new homes, “had increased the survival rate in house fires to 99 percent.”